On 31st May, The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) launched a free soil sampling and analysis scheme. The scheme, which is funded under the EU’s Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA) Package, is being supported by the Ulster Farmers Union and CAFRE and closed on 19th June 2017.
The scheme has two components. The first component is a Northern Ireland - wide scheme, known as the “Open Scheme”, to which all livestock farmers in Northern Ireland are eligible to apply. The second component, the “Catchment Scheme”, is being targeted at farmers within specific geographical areas of the Upper Bann river catchment.
For both components, the scheme will include soil sample collection and analysis on a field by field basis for participating farms. To be eligible farmers must have a DAERA Farm Business ID number and be a livestock farmer registered in Northern Ireland. It is expected that a total of 20,000 fields will be sampled across Northern Ireland between November 2017 and February 2018.
After sampling farmers with be supplied with detailed information about their soils (i.e. N, P and K status) which will enable them to target the application of slurry, manure and chemical fertiliser more accurately. This will help to maximise crop yields, improve soil fertility and increase farm profitability (for example by reducing the need for expensive fertiliser nutrients in fields already well supplied with P or K), while also reducing the potential for negative impacts on water quality.
So far (as of Friday 16th June), 2,441 farmers have registered for the scheme, including 883 beef farmers, 746 dairy farmers, 272 sheep farmers, and 540 farmers managing mixed enterprises, with 58% of farmers from Antrim, Down and Armagh, and 42% from Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. In total 65,175 fields have been offered for soil testing, well in excess of the 20,000 maximum for the scheme. Although random selection will now have to take place to determine which 20,000 fields will actually be soil tested, it is nevertheless really encouraging to see the renewed interest in soil testing that has been generated by the scheme.
Notes to editors:
AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.
AFBI's Vision is “Scientific excellence in Northern Ireland … serving the world”.
All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office.
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